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Occupational Health and Safety for Staff with Substantial Contact with DOGS & PIGS
| Recommended Preventive Measures | Response to Injury | Infectious Diseases | Allergies |
In the research setting, exposure to dogs and pigs can pose potential health risks to humans, such as infection from dog bites and scratches, allergic responses, and contraction of pathogenic enteric organisms through accidental fecal/oral contact. There are many organisms that may not produce symptoms in dogs and pigs that cause disease in people. The most common of these disease causing organisms are discussed below.

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  • Only trained personnel should handle dogs or pigs. Handling and restraint training can be scheduled through LARC;
  • Gloves, water resistant shoe covers, and long sleeved apparel should be worn at all times when working with dogs and pigs;
  • Wash hands after handling animals;
  • When seeking medical advice for any illness, inform your physician that you work with dogs and/or pigs.

To reduce the risk of exposure to allergens from dogs and pigs transported to laboratories, staff are advised to adhere to the following practices:

  • Minimize wearing protective clothing such as lab coats outsides of animal areas and laboratories;
  • Remove transport carts from labs;
  • Use disposable supplies whenever possible;
  • Sanitize lab/surgical areas after animal work.
  • Dust masks should be worn at all times when working with dogs and pigs; whenever there is a risk of aerosol transmission of a zoonotic agent, approved respirator masks (e.g., Type N95 by 3M company) respirators should be worn instead of dust masks.

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Dogs may inflict serious bite and scratch wounds. Prompt first-aid is particularly important due to the penetrating nature of bites inflicted by dogs.

  1. Wash any injured site with soap and water for at least 15 minutes;
  2. Control bleeding by applying direct pressure with a sterile gauze or bandage;
  3. Cover wound with clean bandage (do not apply ointment or spray);
  4. Seek advice from emergency room physician.

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Rabies: Rabies virus (rhabdovirus) can infect almost any mammal; however it is very rare in the research environment because dogs are purchased from high quality sources with excellent vaccination and disease control programs.

  • Reservoir/source: The source of infection to people is an infected animal. Dogs shed virus in their saliva 1-14 days before developing clinical signs. Any random-source (animal with an unknown clinical history) or wild animal exhibiting central nervous system signs that are progressive should be considered suspect for rabies.
  • Transmission: Contact with saliva, mucus membranes, or blood, e.g. bite, or saliva on an open wound;
  • Disease in people: Never reported in a research facility. Contracted from wild or unvaccinated animals, rabies in unvaccinated people is almost invariably fatal.

Brucellosis: The bacterial organism, Brucella canis, is found in dogs; B. suis, is the species found in swine.

  • Reservoir/source of infection to people: Can infect dog and swine breeding colonies where it will be manifested by abortions, infertility, testicular abnormalities and poor semen quality;
  • Transmission: The mode of transmission of B. canis to people is not clear but is probably oral or transcutaneous contact with organism-infected blood or other tissues;
  • Disease in people: Flu-like symptoms that may recur are seen in humans.

Pasteurella multocida: Has been associated with bites and scratches sustained from infected dogs.

Capnocytophaga canimorsus: Also has been associated with dog bites. It can cause serious systemic illness.

Cryptosporidia: Cryptosporidiosis (a protozoan infection) associated with many mammals.

  • Reservoir/source of infection: Many mammals, including dogs and pigs;
  • Transmission: Fecal/oral;
  • Disease in people: Self-limiting diarrhea except in immune compromised people where it can be quite severe. No treatment.


  • Reservoir/source: Dogs, non-human primates, other mammals;
  • Transmission: Fecal/oral;
  • Disease in people: Diarrhea +/- other systemic signs. Usually responds to treatment.

Balantidium coli, a ciliated protozoan, is another enteric pathogen common in domestic pigs.

Bacteria: There are several bacterial pathogens, including Salmonella spp., and Campylobacter spp., that are frequently associated with diarrhea in dogs and pigs and may also cause disease in people.

  • Reservoir/source to people: Symptomatic or asymptomatic animals;
  • Transmission: Oral/fecal;
  • Disease in people: Diarrhea, dysentery. Most bacterial pathogens are responsive to symptomatic and /or antimicrobial therapy.

Enteric Helminths:(such as Roundworms, Tapeworms)

Ringworm: This dermatophyte infection (most commonly Microsporum spp. and Trichophyton spp.) is commonly known as ringworm because of the characteristic circular lesion often associated with it. Dermatophytes are classified as fungi.

  • Reservoir/source to people: Many species of lab animals may be unapparent;
  • Transmission: Direct contact with infected animal;
  • Disease in people: Ringworm is usually self-limiting, often circular with reddened rough skin. Responsive to prescription topical therapy.

Leptospirosis: Leptospira spp. are bacteria found in many animals but are most commonly associated with livestock and dogs. Transmission from laboratory rodents to people has been reported.

  • Reservoir/source of infection to people: Rats, mice, voles, hedgehogs, gerbils, squirrels, rabbits, hamsters, reptiles, dogs, sheep, goats, horses, standing water.
  • Transmission: Leptospires are shed in the urine of infected animals. Direct contact with urine or tissues via skin abrasions or contact with mucous membranes has been reported. Transmission can also occur through inhalation of infectious droplet aerosols and by ingestion;
  • Disease in people: Flu-like symptoms, mild to severe. Death has been reported.

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Individuals who have been previously sensitized to dogs outside of the work place may be at greater risk of developing allergies to dogs. Exposure to dog allergens is via saliva, hair and skin.